A petition has been launched in an effort to prevent proposals being passed which would see housing being built in a former car park next to Gosford Castle.
The multi-million pound development, in the heart of Gosford Forest Park, includes a total of 11 units.
And the proposals are due to be publicly advertised next week, with the plans now with ABC Council.
Those behind the petition are asking the council to reject the plans and instead consider purchasing the earmarked car park site and walled garden and working to transform them for the “wider benefit” of those using Gosford Forest Park.
Armagh I exclusively revealed plans for the development just over a week ago and our story received a huge reaction, with a very visible backlash to the proposals.
Joanna Singleton, who set up the petition, said it had been started in a direct response to our story.
And she told us they wanted people to sign to show their “concern and objection to the proposals”, with the petition already “gaining great public momentum in only a few hours”.
She told Armagh I : “There has been much shock and strong disapproval of the plans amongst the local community. This is evident in the responses under your article.
“I have since started the online petition as a means to both raise public awareness of the proposed plans and provide a channel in which the community and users of Gosford Park can object.”
Indeed, Joanna said there had been great frustration and distress locally after the plans were made known.
She added: “The sentiment amongst the community is that the proposed plans would damage the forest landscape and change the whole nature, beauty and ethos of Gosford Forest Park. Gosford is a much-loved public Park and its unique environment should be protected.
“Whilst a tidy-up of the area and restoration of the walled garden is desirable, a multi-million pound housing estate is not an appropriate trade-off.
“It was one thing to convert the Castle into private accommodation to preserve it without changing the character of the area, it is entirely another thing to build new houses for the sake of profit.”
The petition will be presented to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, which will be tasked with considering the planning officials’ findings and making final decisions to either allow plans to proceed or reject them.
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned public users of Gosford Forest Park, appeal to ABC Council to show its commitment to the protection and conservation of the forest landscape by rejecting the proposed new-build housing development plans within the old Castle carpark.
“Gosford is a much-loved forest park and public amenity, comprising 240 hectares of diverse woodland and open parkland set within the heart of County Armagh.
“It holds the distinction of being designated the first conservation forest in Northern Ireland and is available for the public to enjoy its scenic trails, unique wildlife and wide variety of tree and flora species.”
As Armagh I revealed last week, the development – if approved – would consist of 11 properties, which lie in the shadow of the 19th Century castle and sandwiched between it and the famous walled garden.
The 11 new homes – all of one-and-a-half storeys – would be a mix of accommodation types. The development would comprise of three detached houses, two semi-detached and six townhouses.
The application – in the name of Sam Marks, from Newtownabbey – has been submitted to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for consideration.
The proposals would also see the provision of private amenity space for residents of the new homes, as well as parking provision.
The applicant is also intending to carry out a landscape scheme which would include a maintenance plan for the walled garden, which has a pond at its centre.
The earmarked site is described in the submission as being on “lands adjacent and to the west of Gosford Castle, Markethill”. It is described as “hardstanding ground” which was “formerly a public car park”.
The petitioners are critical of the plans.
Their official document adds: “Whilst the castle has been recently redeveloped, this conserved a unique historic building from a deteriorating state and does not licence further residential development within the area.
“The proposals include maintenance efforts for the neighbouring walled garden, but this is in no way compensation for the adverse impact a significant housing development would have on the overall nature of the area.
“The proposed plans would damage the forest landscape and change the whole nature, beauty and ethos of Gosford Forest Park.
“For this reason, we call upon ABC council to reject the proposals and, instead, itself purchase the castle car park and walled garden with a view to transforming them for the wider benefit of the users of Gosford Park.
“This alternative would be in keeping with the overall purpose of the park and would enhance and develop the forest environment for the greater good.”
The petition is available to sign here.
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